Selection Day Summary

Aravind Adiga

Selection Day

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Selection Day Summary

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Selection Day is a novel by Aravind Adiga, published in 2016. Adiga uses an approach to depicting the city of Mumbai that has been described as Dickensian in its embrace of the dark side of a crowded metropolis and the dreams and frustrations of its citizens.

The novel begins with a brief prologue in which a young boy describes the many tastes he encounters in his life, including his older brother’s sweat, which is the sweat of fear, telling the narrator that his brother has been at cricket practice with his father. The story then jumps to three years before selection day, when new players will be chosen for professional cricket teams. Manjunath Kumar, known as Manju, lives with his older brother Radha and their father Mohan, in a single room in Mumbai. Mohan is obsessed with cricket and has been training both his sons in the sport since they were very young. They are very poor, and their mother left the family shortly after they moved to the city from a small village.

Mohan believes success in cricket for his sons is the family’s path out of poverty. He trains the boys in eccentric and strange ways he has developed himself. Mohan favors Radha, praying that he becomes the greatest cricket batter of all time, and that Manju becomes the second-best. The boys excel, and are able to attend the Ali Weinberg International School so they can play on the school’s cricket team. There they attract the attention of a talent scout for the Mumbai Cricket Association, Tommy-sir.

Tommy-sir introduces the Kumars to a wealthy man named Anand Mehta. Mehta believes the boys will become big stars in the sport, and offers to support the family financially in exchange for a royalty on their future earnings if they become professional cricketers.
The sponsorship deal changes the lives of the Kumars. For a year they continue to practice and save the money that Mehta pays them, and then they can afford to move from their dark one-room apartment to a house in the suburbs. A new boy joins the school team, Javed Ansari. Javed is as good as the Kumar boys, although Radha remains the acknowledged best at the school.

Radha brings a girl home. When Mohan comes home and finds them alone in the house together, he is enraged and attacks the boys. They brothers defend themselves, and their father winds up in the hospital with a broken leg. Manju secretly wishes to pursue non-cricket interests, revealing to Javed that he wants to be a scientist and not a professional athlete. Javed reveals he is also disinterested in cricket, and encourages Manju to pursue his own dreams and not those of his father. Manju, however, is very gifted athletically and fears his driven father, and so continues to improve in cricket, and eventually becomes regarded as a better player than his brother. Manju is offered a scholarship to the school. Radha begins to openly resent his brother.

Selection day arrives, when players can try out for the professional teams and potentially launch their professional careers. Both Manju and Radha try out; Manju, despite not being interested in cricket, performs well and is selected, but Radha, who wants nothing else in life, cannot put aside his rage and resentment and does poorly. Radha assaults another player in his anger, and flees the city to escape the police. Radha heads back to the family’s old village.

Manju, upset, goes to Javed’s apartment and swears he will never play cricket again. Javed comforts Manju, and the boys become very affectionate. Just as they seem about to kiss, however, Manju has a panic attack and runs away. He returns home and tells his father he will continue to play.

Manju is selected to play for the Under-19 league and plays brilliantly for three years. He is then selected by the Mumbai professional team and plays for several more years. Radha returns from the village, but does nothing, supported by money that Manju gives him and living in bitterness. The brothers have nothing to do with their father. Manju’s heart is never in cricket, and his playing is lackluster; he is eventually transferred to a novelty league and then fired when he is just 27 years old.

The Cricket Association hires him as a talent scout, however. Tommy-sir has passed away, and Javed makes a living as a grifter after attempting to become an actor. All of the characters seem to reflect on how being forced to pursue things they did not want and giving into their anger has left them in mediocrity.